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coming up, 50 years ago, the second vatican council discussed making the catholic church more relevant in the modern world. but have some american nuns gone too far? >> this is not just about the vatican versus u.s. nuns. this really is about the future of how we interpret the message of the second vatican council. and islamic art, in present and former arab lands. major funding for "religion & ethics newsweekly" is provided by the lilly endowment, an
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indianapolis basededvate family foundation, dedicated to its founders and christian religion, community development and education. additional funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement product. that's why we're your retirement company. the estate of william j. carter. the jane henson foundation and corporation for public broadcasting. welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. thousands of political leaders, doctors and activists gathered in washington this week for the biannual international aids conference, held for the first time in the u.s. in more than 20 years. at a georgetown university summit timed to the conference, religious groups highlighted the role of faith-based efforts in combating the disease internationally. mega church pastor rick warren urged churches to work with diverse coalitions in the fight. >> i don't have to agree with
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everything you do to work with you on things we can work on. widespread mourning continues for the victims of last week's mass shooting at a colorado movie theater. several congregations held vigils for the 12 people who were killed and the more than 50 who were wounded. many churches also had chaplains on hand to counsel the grieving. religious leaders condemned the shooting as a senseless and evil act. others say it points to the need for stricter gun control laws. a new survey from the pew forum on religion & public life found that voters continue to want a president with strong religious faith. but many remain unclear about the beliefs of president obama and mitt romney. while the number of americans who can correctly identify obama as a christian has now risen to 49%, 17% still wrongly believe he's a muslim.
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60% know that romney is mormon, and the majority of them say they are unconcerned by that. a high ranking catholic priest in philadelphia was sentenced to three to six years in prison for his role in covering up clergy sex abuse. monsignor william lynn was convicted of child endangerment last month. he is the first u.s. catholic official to be found guilty of a crime for failing to report abusive priests. 50 years ago this fall, pope john xxiii opened a series of meetings in rome on how to make the catholic church more relevant in the modern world. this second vatican council produced significant changes in catholic life. but the legacy of vatican ii is still debated today, as has been evident in the current standoff between the vatican and many american nuns. in april, the vatican accused the umbrella group that
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represents the majority of u.s. nuns of "doctrinal confusion." yet many of these sisters say they are just following the spirit of vatican ii. kim lawton has our special report. >> reporter: in washington, d.c., sister maureen fiedler hosts the public radio program "interfaith voices." she tries to broaden interreligious understanding in order to further justice and peace. values she says come straight from her roman catholic faith. >> this isn't something peripheral. this is central to the preaching of the gospel. >> reporter: fiedler entered religious life 50 years ago, just before vatican ii got under way. she says the spirit of the vatican meetings had a profound impact on how she viewed her calling. >> the second vatican council had a marvelous document called the church in the modern world which basically underlined the message of justice and peace in the gospel. >> reporter: fiedler became involved in a series of social justice causes, including a 37-day fast in support of the
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equal rights amendment, and rallies in support of the ordination of female priests. >> it just all fit together as a piece for me, and it also fit together in my prayer as i tried to put this together with the second vatican council. it simply made sense to try to alleviate the suffering of the poor, to end wars, to overcome discrimination. that for me was christianity. >> reporter: but some critics say many catholic sisters have been using the second vatican council to justify positions and activities that are in conflict with official church teachings. colleen carroll campbell is a columnist and author. >> this idea that having this second vatican council and pronouncing that there's this amorphous spirit that gives us license to pretty much throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak when it comes to catholic doctrine, it's simply wrong, and i think we've heard over and over from pope john paul ii and pope benedict xvi
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that it's wrong. >> reporter: pope john the xxiii convened the second vatican council in october 1962 in order, as he put it, to "open a window and let in a little fresh air." >> even though in the united states there were a lot of changes going on in the '40s and '50s after the second world war, in worldwide catholicism these changes really hadn't occurred. and so in order to open up a window for the whole church, not just in modernized countries, this council was called. >> reporter: over the next three years, church leaders at the council produced 16 documents on a host of topics, from introducing local languages into the mass, to expanding lay involvement and promoting more interfaith dialogue. one of the documents focused on religious life. it encouraged catholic sisters to reexamine their mission, their rules, even their style of dress. >> it called us to go back and
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look at our foundresses and the spirit in which they started the communities. and when you look at those women who were foundresses, none of them are pussycats, i'm here to tell you. they were strong women who did things and started ministries that were, in many ways unheard of in their own day. >> reporter: many u.s. sisters began modifying or even eliminating the traditional habit. the clothing changes for prioresses of the dominican sisters in amityville, new york, were dramatic. sister mary hughes says even more than clothing changes, vatican ii urged nuns to get out in the community. >> i think that's one of the great gifts of vatican ii, that it sent us back to study what the gospels were saying. and over and over again, it was about feed the hungry, visit those in prison, help the poor. >> reporter: the dominican sisters in amityville have a variety of ministries designed to help those at the margins,
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such as literacy classes to teach new immigrant women english. there are homes to help women and children with nowhere else to live. and, there's even an organic garden, where about 20% of the produce is donated to an interfaith food network. under an umbrella organization called the leadership conference of women religious, or lcwr, many communities of nuns began shifting their ministries in the wake of vatican ii. for some sisters, it was an exhilarating time. but others were concerned. >> there was a minority of women who didn't feel that the changes were appropriate, that the adaptations to modern life, the moving out of the parish into the world, that these movements had gone too far. >> reporter: some nuns became part of a separate organization tholtritional views. >> the vatican ii documents are a pretty straightforward read, i
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think the difficulty comes when you don't read everything in context perhaps. i would find it difficult to read the documents then come up with them saying something more than what they say. >> reporter: the lcwr still represents about 80% of the some 57,000 american nuns. the group has increasingly taken on advocacy positions, including some that are controversial. >> these are the sisters that, that publicly stated to john paul ii that women should be ordained, that women should be allowed to work in all the ministries of the church. this is the same organization that signed "the new york times" letter which said that there is a legitimate diverse opinion on the question of abortion. >> reporter: sister mary hughes is immediate past president of the lcwr, and still part of its leadership team. >> are there persons who have divergent opinions? i think that's true in the whole church. it's not just true in religious life.
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i think sometimes there's a concern if we raise a question that means that we are in defiance and that's not at all what happens. but i think we're going to continue to raise the questions because there might be areas that we would hope the church would look at. >> reporter: in 2008, vatican officials began an investigation into the lives and doctrine of u.s. women religious. this past april, the vatican released a report accusing the lcwr of having "serious doctrinal problems." the assessment specifically criticized the group for being largely silent on right-to-life issues. and it mandated that the group come under the authority of some u.s. bishops. >> we're stuck with a situation that we are not happy about. that we answered all of the questions that were given to us in the doctrinal
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assessment honestly, carefully, prudently, and when we didn't hear back, i guess we thought that we were believed. and i think there are aspects of the mandate that make us wonder if our materials were read. >> reporter: for example, hughes says she believes there is more than one way to promote the sanctity of human life. she says her community's ministries against domestic violence and in support of homeless mothers and children is also pro-life work. >> that's about the sanctity of human life. it's about doing it differently. i think it's complementary. i don't think you can have one without the other. >> we're talking about defending the sanctity of every human life, from the cradle to the grave, defending the sanctity of marriage as the church sees marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and just generally promoting church teaching, and upholding that teaching and witnessing with joy to that, and that's not what many lay catholics have seen. >> reporter: professor mcdannell says since the death of john the xxiii, church leaders have appeared to be consolidating
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authority. >> the new generation of men want a catholic church which is more traditional, which is more devotional, which is more willing to be obedient to the authority. >> reporter: some wonder if there is any room for dialogue and debate. >> this is not just about the vatican versus the nuns. this really is about the future of how we interpret the message of the second vatican council. and what's going on right now quite frankly makes me sad. because i see certain people in rome, in the vatican, who want retrenchment, who want to go back to the church the way it was before the second vatican council, when the church was essentially the hierarchy and they determined everything down to sometimes the minutia of catholic life. >> women religious need to stand with the church and if they don't feel that they can in good conscience do that anymore then i think it would, it would take more integrity to simply step back and say, you know, maybe
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we're not called to be catholic women religious anymore. maybe we want to be something else. >> reporter: many lay catholics have been rallying in support of the sisters. hughes says they been getting letters of encouragement from across the country. she says she remains hopeful that, in the spirit of vatican ii, healing can prevail. >> there's always a blessing that comes with every conflict. perhaps the blessing is that we continue to open up within the church avenues for true dialogue and true dialogue isn't about winners and losers. it's about people truly being able to listen, to understand the other perspective before making any judgments. >> reporter: lcwr members will be meeting in st. louis in early august to discuss their official response to the vatican assessment. i'm kim lawton reporting. this week, one of the three bishops appointed to oversee the lcwr took a highly critical stand against the group. on the public radio program
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"fresh air," toledo bishop leonard blair said the sisters are promoting "a new kind of theology." he quoted pope john paul ii saying all other human rights are "false and illusory" if the right to life is not defended with "maximum determination." more about the week's "religion and ethics news" now from kim lawton, managing editor of this program, and david gibson, national reporter for religion news service, who joins us from new york. welcome to you both. david, out of all the tragedy in colorado, there has emerged another debate about gun control. should it be considered a pro-life, a right to life issue like abortion? what are people saying? >> well, this debate, bob, was really prompted in the hours after the shooting by a column by father james martin, a jesuit at "american" magazine, popular author, who wrote an essay
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saying, look, gun control and gun violence is a pro-life issue as much as abortion, as the death penalty, as euthanasia. and pro-lifers, traditional pro-lifers, should get behind it in that context. well, of course, again of all the many debates that have come out of this horrific episode, that opened up another branch in the moral and religious realm in our society, with a lot of people pushing back and saying, no, abortion is the paramount pro-life issue. anything else would be a distraction. so you kind of had an interesting paradox almost of pro-life folks who are arguing for restrictions on abortion saying there should be no restrictions on guns. and then you had a lot of liberals who favor the right to abortion saying, no we should have restrictions on guns. >> and it sort of highlights a debate that's been going on among evangelicals and catholics
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in particular about this hierarchy of the life issues. and we saw this also in the discussions between the nuns and the vatican. some people say if everything is pro-life then it really loses the meaning and that there is a hierarchy of life issues and abortion should be at the top and these other issues shouldn't. so this situation sort of highlighted that ongoing debate. >> david, another discussion or debate that came out of the colorado thing was whether what happened was evil or whether whatever happened is the kind of thing that we ought to be able and should do something about so . >> suffering happens. evil happens in the world. it's about how we deal with that in the aftermath. or whether, look, it's not just about praying for victims and praying to hope that this doesn't happen again, but also, working as believers to, as you say, repair the world, to institute perhaps better gun
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control laws or make public policies that would prevent this kind of gun violence from happening again. you had a real fierce, really religious debate at the heart of this. >> meanwhile, in philadelphia, monsignor william lynn became the first catholic official in the country to be convicted of a crime for covering up sex abuse by some of the priests that he supervised. three to six years he got. david, kim, what's being said about the severity of that sentence? >> well, you had some people arguing that maybe this was too severe. one of the priests that he was accused of sheltering got less time than he did, so there was some concern about that. but also in a week, when you also saw the penn state punishments coming down, there was some discussion about accountability and is it institutions that should be held accountable or individuals? and who all is harmed? and certainly we saw with the catholic church there have been
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some concerns by some of the victims groups that there hasn't been enough accountability at the top of the institution. and so that came out again this week. >> and at penn state it seemed like, to many people, like a kind of a blanket punishment rather than as you say, singling out the people at the very top who could be held responsible. >> well, and there are some in the catholic church that would argue that a lot of people in the church also ended up suffering the consequences of the situation. >> many thanks to kim lawton of "religion and ethics newsweekly" and david gibson of religion news service. in other news, as the olympics games got underway in london this week, pope benedict xvi prayed they would promote peace and reconciliation around the world. at his summer residence, castel
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gandolfo, the pope said he hoped the games would lead to brotherhood between all people. meanwhile, many jewish groups petitioned heavily for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony to honor the 11 israeli athletes killed at the olympics 40 years ago. olympics officials declined the request, saying it would be too political. on our calendar this week, jews mark tisha b'av, a solemn day commemorating the destruction of the first and second temples in jerusalem. it is recognized as the day of mourning for other tragic events in jewish history, as well. and muslims around the world continue their month-long observance of ramadan, when those who are able to do so fast from sunrise to sunset. in the united states, several interfaith events are being held. in virginia, christians and muslims gathered at a local
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church for an iftar, the meal that breaks the fast. they welcomed a catholic priest who was recently expelled from syria for speaking out against the assad regime. he urged the international community to do more to protect syrian civilians. finally, in new york city, at the metropolitan museum of art, there is a major permanent exhibit of art representing islam as it has existed from the 7th century to the present day in so-called "arab lands" that once stretched from spain to india. and some of it reveals the influences that islam and other religions have had on each other. our guide was dr. sheila canby, the curator in charge. >> overall, the collection has 12,000 objects. and we are showing 1,200. there are motifs that you find
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across a very wide geographic spread, and that wouldn't have happened if those regions hadn't been unified by a single religion, being islam. the use of the arabic script, of course, spread, as the religion spread. they reverse it, they do mirror writing, tiny writing, huge writing. the written word in islam is of absolute paramount importance. and the act of copying a quran is an act of devotion, religious devotion. a mihrab is, of course, the central focus in a mosque. it's what people face when they pray and in a mosque would be lined up so that the people facing it are facing the direction of mecca. we have glass mosque lamps. we have one or two ceramic ones as well. they were probably made in sets
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to be used in mausoleums and madrassas and mosques. our newest gallery is our moroccan court, which was built here over a six-month period by a group of craftsmen from fez. what it is is an adaptation of the type of courtyard that one finds in several madrassas religious schools or seminaries in fez. but, you know, our court is just tiny by comparison to those, so the challenge really was that we had to design it in such a way that they could kind of shrink but keep the proportions right. the tile panels are actually inspired by a tile panel in alhambra. one of the stories we wanted to tell, really, was about the complexity of society in spain while it was still under muslim
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control, and so we have actually two hebrew manuscripts. the hebrew bible is fascinating because it has a page with what looks like geometric designs. but then if you look closely you realize that all these geometric designs are made from micro-writing, and in the same case we have pages from a quran that was written in micro-writing. so not only were the geometric designs being shared and used by people of different faiths, but also the whole idea of this tiny writing seems to have appealed to both muslims and to jews in spain. muhammad is depicted in certain contexts. there were illustrated histories which show the life of muhammad. then in the poetic context,
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really in mystical poetry, we find depictions of this mirage, the night journey, and he's riding on a human-headed horse up to heaven. these were images that were painted by muslim painters for muslim patrons. so it was completely within a muslim context that they were done. there was nothing untoward at all about them. what i would hope is that people would understand that although the religion infuses all of these lands and these historical periods that regions were individual, and regions had particular styles. and also the commonality with mankind, which is that we all have -- we all eat and have bowls to eat from, we all, you know -- there are so many things that are common to all of us, and to think of things in that way, i think, humanizes the
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religion and humanizes the objects to people who are not familiar with it. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us anytime on smartphones. there's much more on our website as well, including more of kim lawton's interviews about vatican ii and u.s. catholic nuns. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at as we leave you, scenes from the opening of a newly restored buddhist temple in siberia which had been destroyed under stalin.
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major funding for "religion & ethics newsweekly" is provided by lilly endowment, an indianapolis based private foundation dedicated to its founders interests in religion, dedicated to education. additional funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. the estate of william j. carter. the jane henson foundation. and the corporation for public broadcasting.
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Religion Ethics Newsweekly
WETA July 29, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EDT

News/Business. (2012) Crisis between the Vatican and U.S. nuns; religious reaction to the shooting in Colorado. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Vatican 9, Kim Lawton 5, Islam 3, Colorado 3, William J. Carter 2, Jane Henson 2, David Gibson 2, Bob Abernethy 2, Mary Hughes 2, Philadelphia 2, New York 2, Amityville 2, Indianapolis 2, Washington 2, Monsignor William Lynn 2, Hughes 2, Fiedler 2, Spain 2, John Paul 2, Mankind 1
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